McAfee’s Knob to Tinker Cliffs: February 18 – 20, 2011

View of McAfee's Knob from the AT

In Catawba,VA there lies a 14 mile stretch of the AT known as the Triple Crown, where hikers can achieve, what is regarded, as the three best vistas in Virginia: Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee’s Knob, and Tinker Cliffs.  McAfee’s is said to be one of the most photographed spots along the whole AT, in good company with Clingman’s Dome in TN, Mount Katahdin at the trail’s northern terminus, and the Presidential Range in New England.  For the sake of time, we forewent Dragon’s but were able to conquer the latter two for a successful weekend of hiking in the Jefferson National Forest.  Along with the normal array of Woodsboy’s, plenty of other first-time group members came along including Tyler Lorenzi*, and Matt’s roomate, RJ.  It was also nice to meet up with Woodsboy veteran, Bryant Boyle.

Disembarking from the parking lot

The group disembarked from the McAfee’s parking lot, and began the four and a half mile ascent to our premiere vista.  Even though it was the end of February, the temperatures were in the low 60s, and the sky was clear and sunny, so we paused to shed our outer layer as we warmed up.  Heading north on the AT, the trail skirts the side of the mountain just below the ridge, gently rolling, never really demanding any really steep climbs.  At the Catawba shelter we stopped to use the spring to refill our water before continuing up through the power lines – a sign we were getting close.

View from McAfee's Knob *1

Probably the hardest of climbs, though still not that long, was the final ascent to McAfee’s, which ended up being everything we wanted – stunning and beautiful.  Wide open and un-obstructed views of Tinker Cliffs to the north, and all of the Catawba valley lay out in front of us.  The wind whipped our faces, yet we took no notice.  On a clear day, one can see as far south as Dragon’s Tooth, and as far north as part of downtown Roanoke.  From the knob, we spied our campsite for the evening, just a mile north on the trail, underneath a power line in a small clearing.  After leaving the knob we descended through Devil’s Kitchen, an expansive rock maze, complete with plenty of nooks and cranny’s for camping opportunities.  It’s said that at the end of the last ice age, when the continents were crashing and expanding, Africa gave us a nice upper cut, causing a majority of these rocks to explode towards the surface – whoa!

Our campsite for the weekend


When we reached the clearing with the power lines, Andrew led us out into the clearing to find the campsite he had read about on the forums.  As expected it was a huge open campsite in a nice meadow, with a beautiful overlook of the local Roanoke airport to the east.  With such a big group, the camp chores got done quickly and Steven went about getting the camp feast all set to go.  Due to Bryant’s willingness to lug up a nice cast iron skillet, we grilled the burgers more easily, and enjoyed plenty of camp fire cous cous to top everything off.  Temps were still in the low 60s, so huddling the camp fire wasn’t necessary (unlike last winter – see Signal Knob post).  We passed around a bottle of Jack and some jungle juice, and watched the planes land in the distance.  We had a nice shanty town of tents set up, so when 2AM rolled around, we hit the sack.

Views of Carvin Cove Reservoir

Saturday’s plan was to do an eight mile out and back to Tinker Cliffs to the north, so when we woke up we made a nice pot of instant coffee (dubbed motor oil by Bryant), and threw some snacks and water into our packs for the day.  It was nice not having to pack up the tents for once and lug all our gear with us, especially since there were some legitimate climbs to reach Tinker and we all appreciated the lighter load.  On the way, there was view after view of the Carvin Cove Reservoir to the east, as well as Catawba Valley to the west, as the trail barely covered the width of the ridge and the trees hadn’t bloomed yet.

Lunch on Tinker Cliffs

The views from Tinker were far more expansive than McAfee’s, as one could walk up to a half mile to achieve a variety of different vistas.  Looking south, we could see McAfee’s and still spot our campsite, so it was fun seeing how far we had come.  The weather was clear and sunny, so we were definitley getting the best out of this section of the triple crown.  We took lunch on the rocks and some of us laid down to take naps before headed back.  Even though, most of the Woodsboys aren’t a fan of backtracking, the section of the AT between McAfee and Tinker are so riddled with vistas it was worth seeing them again.  When we got back to our campsite  most of our tents had partially blown away since the wind was blowing at record speeds that weekend.

Gettin dinner ready on day 2


We made the repairs and went about getting the fire going.  Nearby campers came down to share our fire since this night was far colder than the freak heat wave the night before.  We turned the cast iron skillet upside down and used it to make bean and cheese quesadillas, which we also shared with our guests.  Most of us were tired from the trek so some retired to the tents earlier, while others stayed up to enjoy the fire.  Unfortunately, there was no alcohol to be shared this night.  Andrew, Steven and Tyler went to sleep last.

The fireroad away from McAfee's

The idea for the last day was to take the fire road all the way back to the parking area, and get to the Homeplace as quickly as possible.  Fortunately, the wait was only 45 minutes so tossed around the frisbee a while before being seated and chowing down on home made fried chicken, ham, mased potatoes, green beans, biscuits and sweet tea.  An awesome end to an awesome hike.

Tyler and Matt indulging in the wonders of the Homeplace


*We lost Tyler Lorenzi in a boating accident on May 12, 2011.  Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to his friends and family.  May he rest in peace.




~ by thewoodsboys on July 31, 2011.

One Response to “McAfee’s Knob to Tinker Cliffs: February 18 – 20, 2011”

  1. Hi to the Woods Boys. Just came across your blog and love it. I just started a hiking blog myself a coupleof days ago but have a ways to go but hope to have it up soon. I am doing to be doing an xtreme hike in September for as a fundraiser for the cystic fibrosis Foundation. My son has CF and I love to hike. We are still trying to get more people signed up. it will be the weekend of 27 Sept on the massanutten trail in Front Royal, Va. It is called the Xtreme hike for CF. 31 miles starting at 4:00am and going until 7pm ish that night. So I am encouraged by your blog and have done been hiking up in the shannandoah to start conditioning. McAfee’s Knob is one of the trails on our hike training list of places to hike for conditioning. Keep up the hiking! Oh and if your interested in joining our hike for CF please let me know and I can send you the information!

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